PhD in Forensic Science

A wide range of doctoral programs in forensic science are available, and they may be tailored to specific areas of interest, such as criminal justice, nursing or chemistry. Read on to learn more about specialization options, admission requirements and typical coursework. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Doctoral Programs Focus on Forensic Science?

Programs that award a Ph.D. in Forensic Science are not very common. More common are doctoral programs in criminal justice, chemistry and nursing that have a forensic science specialization.

Program FieldsChemistry, nursing or criminal justice with a forensic science concentration
PrerequisitesBachelor's or master's degree in a life science or a related field, GRE scores
Program StructureCore courses, track courses, research, dissertation, internship, seminars; programs take three to five years to complete
Course TopicsVaries by program, but may include chromatography, court testimonies, trace analysis, ethical issues in criminal justice or trauma treatment
Online OptionsSelect classes may be available online

What Prerequisites Will I Need to Fulfill?

Depending on the type of doctoral program you choose, you may have specific educational requirements to complete. Since it's a graduate-level program, you must complete an undergraduate program before you can enroll. Most programs call for you to have a bachelor's or master's degree in one of the life sciences or related field. Certain programs require you to have achieved a specific score on your GRE.

How Do the Programs Work?

Most Ph.D. in forensic science programs consists of core and track courses as well as a dissertation or internship. The majority of the coursework focuses on research and how you can apply your area of focus into forensic science. You may also be required to attend weekly seminars and presentations. Most programs take 3-5 years to complete, depending upon your concentration and undergraduate areas of study.

What Will I Learn?

During a doctoral program in chemistry or biochemistry with a forensic science concentration, you'll utilize DNA typing and toxicological analysis in research projects. You'll also use advanced instrumentation to study forensic chemistry, chromatography, spectrometry and trace analysis.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in forensic nursing focuses on the relationship between the health and legal systems. You will learn how to work with other health care providers and government officials to investigate, prevent and treat numerous types of trauma. You may also study how criminal, family and civil law relates to the nursing profession.

A criminal justice doctoral program that focuses on forensic science can supply you with knowledge of the ethical, technical and scientific issues within the criminal justice field. You will learn how to provide expert testimony in court, as well as how evidence can be admissible or inadmissible. Some programs include a mock trial where you will apply your forensic science knowledge.

Can I Earn My Degree Online?

Because of research, clinical or other in-person requirements, most doctoral programs in forensic science are offered only on campus. However, some schools may offer some classes online. Even though certain courses may be available in a Web-based format, you may still have to complete lab work in approved settings.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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